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Cooking stories of India in Dublin’s alleyways

Photo by Marvin Ozz on Pexels.

From fragrant tikka masalas to the lively chaos of street-side chaat, each bite in ‘desi food’ unfolds a tale of tradition and innovation. Sharing deepest conversations over food, making life’s most important decisions, and struggling to break the naan bread with hand, Dubliners embrace the rich cultural tapestry. Spun by the spices, stories, and soul of India, every dining experience is a human connection to a world of flavours.

In the middle of a vibrant tapestry of international cuisines, Indian food culture stands out as a hypnotising journey that transcends taste buds. “People love the flavours”, says a spokesperson at Pickle. And truly so, for the spices in Indian cuisines represent the vast diversity of the region. Dublin’s Indian food scene is not merely about satisfying hunger but about immersing oneself in a rich mosaic of flavours, stories, and traditions.

Indian cuisine was one of the top-rated cuisines in the world as per data released by Taste Atlas. It currently sits at the 11th position with a rating of 4.52 stars out of five stars. The data is curated from 395,205 dish ratings (271,819 valid) and 115,660 food product ratings (80,863 valid). Additionally, from a catalogue of 10,927 dishes, and based on 395,205 user ratings (271,819 valid), Butter Garlic Naan ranks as the 7th most popular dish, earning a spot in the top 10 best dishes with a rating of 4.67. Hence, these cuisines have the highest average ratings among their top 50 dishes and products.

10 Best dishes in the world by Brand Bhaasha

Curating The Soul of Indian Cuisine

Dating back almost 100 years, the first Indian restaurant opened in Dublin in 1908 called the India Restaurant and Tea Rooms. Since then, the city has whole-heartedly welcomed and seen an array of Indian flavours. From spices like cloves, dates, saffron, and turmeric, the Irish have been familiar with the taste tangs of India since the British Raj.

However, Dublin’s so-called Indian eateries serve as gateways to not only the subcontinent’s diverse culinary traditions but also include trends from Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh. From Dosas to Goat Keema Pav, the grand menus of fine-dines and food trucks in Dublin offer something for everyone.

One such culinary haven is Doolally, nestled in the heart of the city. “As soon as you step in, the warm aroma of spices immediately transports you to your home back in India,” says Vaibhav, a food enthusiast and PhD student at Trinity College, Dublin. The Butter Chicken with Garlic Naan combination is never a disappointment for him here.

Although for a desi like Vaibhav, the flavours would ideally need to be a lot stronger. “You cannot expect the same spice level as they’re diluted for European palates.” Chicken Tikka Masala, for instance, is sweet in most of the restaurants here. “You can get it adjusted as per your tastebuds, but most places just add more red chilli instead of making it fresh for you,” adds Vaibhav.

Extending authenticity beyond the kitchen, food stores like Mini India, Shop Easi and Eurasia Supermarket, offer ready-to-eat curries and spices. Grocers source fresh produce, like Indian marketplaces. More so, the likes of Lidl and Tesco offer coriander, chillies, turmeric and more, making the sourcing of ingredients easier than it was 20 years ago.

Pop-up food stall, Delhi2Dublinis a popular name among those who crave street food from the subcontinent. The food stall is run by a family of three. Owner Aanchal emphasises the importance of having authenticity in Indian food in Dublin’s eateries. “At Delhi2Dublin, we believe in offering a slice of India on every plate,” she shares. “Authenticity is not about replicating a dish; it is about using traditional recipes handed down through generations and sharing a moment of joy with all our customers.”

Beyond Spice, A Feast for Every Budget

Affordability is just as important as authenticity in Dublin’s Indian cuisine culture. The city’s Indian culinary environment guarantees that the feast is accessible to all, from student-friendly cafes to posh fine dining places.

“Dosa Dosa and Indian Tiffin are my go-to’s”, reflects Vaibhav. Dublin’s curry houses and family-owned establishments pride themselves on offering a diverse menu that caters to varying budgets without compromising on the richness of flavours. “The best thing about having so many options is that you can choose something that suits your pocket,” shares Nishant, an employee at AIB Bank.

However, sometimes the most authentic experiences become an expensive affair for students. “As an international full-time student, it is very difficult to spend so much on dishes which were so cheap and easy to have in my hometown,” shares Sayali, a student at Dublin Business School. Yet, due to a vast range of choices, she’s found her solace in the traditional tastes of the Indian Spice and Spice Village.

Regardless of the pricing, upscale Indian restaurants bring a touch of luxury to Dublin’s Indian food culture. Food lovers always look for experience and Indian food is all about that. “It’s expensive everywhere. So, if you’re paying, might as well pay 10 more and make it an experience.” For Vaibhav, it’s all about the blend of authenticity with an elegant ambience, providing an immersive dining experience that caters to the refined taste of India.

Dublin’s streets are dotted with affordable and authentic options, where food carts and premium establishments serve up flavoursome dishes. The pricing dynamics in Dublin’s Indian food culture, therefore, cater to a spectrum of tastes and preferences, challenging preconceived notions and embracing the diversity inherent in Indian cuisine.

Beyond the Palate, a Culinary Voyage

Presentation of Indian dishes at restaurants. Photograph: Chan Walrus, Pexels

Indian food culture is not just about what’s on the plate; it’s a journey that invites diners to explore the cultural roots of India. From the vibrant interiors of restaurants to the music playlists, every aspect contributes to a sensual experience that goes beyond mere food.

Elegant interiors decked with Indian art, tapestries depicting scenes from Indian epics, and tables set with gleaming cutlery create an ambience that mirrors the rich cultural diversity of the subcontinent.

Cultural integration extends to the dining rituals. With the fragrant symphony of the place, the food portions greet you like India. Shared plates, family-style servings, and the warmth of hospitality create an atmosphere that fosters connection and community. “Go with 3 or 4 friends, order a main dish, naan, and rice – and that’s how you get food-coma having Indian food”, Vaibhav shared.

Sharing the culture of India goes beyond restaurant walls. High-end eateries like DoolallyPickle, or Konkan celebrate Indian festivals with fervour by curating special menus. The likes of Delhi2Dublin open stalls at pop-up events featuring Indian street food with an added touch of authenticity and joyous spirits.

Aanchal shares her thoughts on fostering cultural connections. “We believe in customer authenticity. Food is a universal language, and here at Delhi2Dublin, we want to create an environment where people can share not just a meal but stories, experiences, and a bit of their own culture.” In Dublin, the exploration of Indian food culture is a tapestry woven in spices and stories. It is a celebration of authenticity, pricing dynamics, and cultural exchange. From family-run establishments preserving traditional recipes to upscale eateries redefining perceptions, each dining experience in Dublin’s Indian culinary scene is a feast for the senses and the soul.

In Dublin, the exploration of Indian food culture is a tapestry woven in spices and stories. It is a celebration of authenticity, pricing dynamics, and cultural exchange. From family-run establishments preserving traditional recipes to upscale eateries redefining perceptions, each dining experience in Dublin’s Indian culinary scene is a feast for the senses and the soul.

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